Piotr Partyla wasn’t really outwardly worried that the focus of the Lyndhurst High School football team was going to shift away from him and the Golden Bears’ vaunted running attack and become more of a passing team after Golden Bear quarterback Brian Podolski threw for 305 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener a few weeks ago.
But the thought had to be dancing around Partyla’s head after Podolski’s aerial assault.
“I was happy as long as we were scoring,” Partyla said. “I’ll take whatever the opponents give us.”
Partyla got his chance to prove himself last year as a sophomore after transferring back home upon the closure of his former school Queen of Peace, where Partyla started at quarterback as a freshman.
Partyla rushed for almost 800 yards and scored 14 touchdowns last season as a sophomore, so he knew that he was going to be the focal point of the Golden Bears’ offense this season.
So Partyla went to work in the offseason, religiously training to prepare for his junior year.
“I was working out four, maybe five times a week,” Partyla said. “Weight lifting was only one part of what I did.”
Most of Partyla’s training regimen was fairly unconventional.
For example, Partyla strapped a parachute to his back and would run against the wind with the parachute fully engaged.
“It was like I was taking off,” Partyla said.
Another tactic was taking an over-the-shoulder vest and backpack and loaded it up with 40 pounds of weights and ran that way, moving, cutting on a dime, envisioning oncoming tacklers with every step he ran in the Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst.
Another involved using a gigantic old truck tire and flipping the tire over and over again at 20-yard intervals.
“It was basic stuff,” Partyla said. “I was pushing myself pretty hard. I wanted to push myself to the limit. I was going to do whatever I could to get better.”
Onlookers used to drive through the park and watch Partyla’s routine. The regular joggers in the park had to stop and stare in amazement.
“I didn’t care who was there watching,” Partyla said. “I was doing it to better myself.”
And Partyla still somehow found the time to go regularly to Functional Athletic Strength and Speed Training (FASST), the highly regarded fitness center in Lyndhurst. Partyla somehow went to FASST to train with well respected trainer and coach Paul Johnson to work on his overall speed and agility.
“I wanted to make sure that when people tried to tackle me during a game, they would have a tough time,” Partyla said. “If they tried to tackle me, I wanted to make it every tougher.”
So needless to say, Partyla had a very busy summer getting prepared and pumped for his junior campaign.
“I knew that I was better,” Partyla said. “I felt bigger, stronger and faster. I was really confident going into the season.”
Then, the Golden Bears open the season against Hawthorne and Podolski explodes with the passing game.
“They made adjustments to stop the run game,” said Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero, whose wife Koriann gave birth to the couple’s second daughter Camila in August, joining big sister Sophia. “We turned it around and Brian threw it well. That was the luxury of having a quarterback who could throw. But we’re a run-first team. We want to be able to run the ball.”
Partyla didn’t want to say anything, but Tuero knew that his star running back was a little ticked off by the lack of usage in the first game. He thought he was well on his way to becoming the forgotten man in the Lyndhurst offense.
“Of course, Piotr was concerned,” Tuero said. “He might not have said anything about it, but I could tell by his body language. But I assured him that he was still the man.”
In fact, Tuero went one step further.
“He’s still ‘The Dog,’” Tuero said. “That’s what I call him. He’s the dog. He’s going to fight for every scrap that’s on the table. When a dog wants to eat, he’s going to scrape and claw. I could tell that the boy was hungry. He was going to be ‘The Dog,’ so we had to keep giving him the ball.
The Golden Bears started off the season with three wins before falling to New Milford, 14-7, in double overtime last Saturday afternoon.
But on Saturday, Sept. 22, it was business as usual for the Golden Bears and their talented hard-working, speedy, shifty, strong “Dog.”
Partyla carried the ball 18 times for 177 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Golden Bears to an impressive and decisive 34-7 win over Pompton Lakes, a team that had defeated the Golden Bears by a collective score of 90-7 over the last two years. Partyla also caught two passes for 47 yards in the big win.
For his efforts, Partyla has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Partyla, who also received the honor in the October 18, 2017 editions, is the first honoree of the 2018-2019 scholastic sports campaign.
The weekly feature will culminate in The Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year sometime in June of 2019.
Tuero said that Partyla’s performance was extremely big, considering the opponent and the time of year.
“It was huge,” Tuero said. “It was big that it was Pompton Lakes, who destroyed us the last two years. We have never won at Pompton Lakes, so it was awesome. And it was big that it pushed us to 3-0. It was an awesome performance, because he had a 70-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty. It was a phenomenal performance.”
For Partyla, it was just another walk in the park.
“I’m glad that it made the whole team feel good,” Partyla said. “I think it shows how good of a team we have.”
Partyla seriously said before the season that he was going to go after the rushing records set by Petey Guerriero, the 2015-2016 Observer Male Athlete of the Year recipient who is currently tearing up the turf as a running back at Monmouth University.
When Partyla first said it, everyone just shook their heads in disbelief. After all, Guerriero merely rushed for 2,161 yards as a senior. That’s a lot of real estate for Partyla to gobble up.
“I want to be as great as him,” Partyla said. “I want to be like him. I look up to him. He was a great player at Lyndhurst. I think I have the work ethic to be a great player. I wanted to set a goal and that was my goal.”
“He set the bar high and wants to go after it,” Tuero said. “(Assistant coach Pat) Auteri always tells Piotr that he can do it. All summer long, we told him he could do it. He runs his tail off when he gets the ball. He punishes people and delivers the hit when he runs. When he gets hit, he’s not stopping, He’s not stopping his feet unless they stop.”
Partyla has two other goals in mind – to win a state championship, something that has been dome just once since the playoff system was instituted in 1974, and to play college football.
“To win a state title, man, that’s big time,” Partyla said. “Everybody wants that. It hasn’t happened here since 1990. That’s a long time. I think we’re ready. And I’ll do anything to ger the chance to play at the next level. I want that so bad. I know I will do it. I just have to wait for the right offer.”
Tuero isn’t surprised at what Partyla does.
“He can’t surprise me anymore,” Tuero said. “I knew he was good, but I didn’t think this good. I really didn’t know how big his heart is.”
Obviously, ‘The Dog’ has got a huge heart. You can hear him barking now.
“We’re going to ride him,” Tuero said. “If we’re going to make the states (playoffs), then he has to be the one to take us there.”
If you listen closely, you can hear someone singing that catchy tune from a few years back. “Who Let The Dog Out?’ Harrison gets to meet The Dog Friday night.
Lyndhurst junior running back Piotr Partyla. Photo by Jim Hague
Lyndhurst junior running back Piotr Partyla moves his way through the Pompton Lakes defense in a 34-7 win for the Golden Bears, a game that earned Partyla Observer Athlete of the Week honors, the second time he has received the honor in his career and he’s the first Observer AOW for the 2018-2019 season. Photo courtesy of Jose Guzman.